Thursday, June 6, 2013

Canon Mirrorless Announcements (at long last)

Earlier today, Canon (finally) announced a third lens for the EF-M mount, and more importantly a new firmware update for the system's only body that claims to fix a longstanding issue.

First up though: the new lens. The system's first new lens announced since its genesis 11 months ago is surprisingly an ultrawide zoom in the form of the Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM. Prior to that, I (as well as the rumour sites) had expected the next few EF-M lenses to be a consumer telephoto zoom and a superzoom before anything else. But a surprise like this isn't exactly unwelcome, because unlike the somewhat disastrous launch of the system last year, several things were done right this time around.

The obvious difference between the 11-22 STM and the existing EF-M zoom (aside from focal length) is that it's been made collapsible to minimize its size while not in use, just like the kit zooms for Nikon 1, Sony NEX, and Olympus m4/3 bodies do. It does mean having to unlock the lens every time you want to use it, but anything that keeps an ultrawide zoom that small can't be called bad. If there's one thing Canon does seem to have an understanding of when it come to mirrorless cameras, it's the need to make them small...small enough to differentiate them from their own DSLRs. Though the size gap closed after the canon SL1 was announced in March, the EOS M is still impressively small, even when compared to the Panasonic GF 3/5 and the Nikon 1 J3.

The best news by far about this new lens is the price, at 379 (like going to be $399 CDN), would make it the cheapest ultrawide lens on the market for any large-sensor system, currently by a margin of $50 over the next cheapest option. This means somebody could get an EOS M, 22/2.0, 90EX flash, and 11-22mm IS STM for less than the price of a 17-40mm f/4 L. That's a pretty good value, especially if somebody only wants an ultrawide for casual use but couldn't justify getting one before due to the high entry cost.  Plus the 11-22 IS STM joins the Sony 10-18 and Nikon 16-35 as the only ultrawides with optical stabilization (albeit only 3 stops worth). Of course optical quality remains to be seen from the lens, but if it's even half-decent it'll be worth the price.

Along with the new lens came the announcement of a new firmware update for the EOS M, one that claims will make autofocus in one-shot mode 2.3 times faster. Since the slow AF was undoubtedly the #1 complaint about the camera after its launch, this may finally allow it to start getting back on par with industry standard speeds. A similar treatment 'fixed' the Fuji X-Pro1 last year, so we know it can be done.

The system still has along way to go before it can catch up to the rest of the mirrorless systems (especially m4/3), but at least today's announcements were a step in the right direction. Waiting less than 11 months for the next announcement would be another step, too.

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